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Richard Ford

His most recent novel, "The Lay of the Land," begins there, on a cold morning just before Thanksgiving, with its main character, Frank Bascombe, about to go for a life-affirming swim.

"Feeling the ocean climb and lick my chest, and my breath go short and shallow, my two arms beginning to resist, to float way to nowhere, I knew that death was different. And that I needed to say 'No' to it now."

Ford won the Pulitzer Prize dealing with the intricacies of Frank Bascombe's existence. His three Bascombe books, all of them set over holiday weekends, follow Frank's career, first as a sportswriter, then a New Jersey real estate salesman.

"The language of real estate is all about the language of people's hopes for where they live, how much they feel their house is worth and therefore, how much they feel themselves to be worth," Ford said.

Frank Bascombe loses a child. so the first Bascombe book opens in a cemetery, inspired by one not far from where Richard Ford once lived, in Princeton, N.J.

"It's really just a sort of almost inert background in front of which the principals, the characters do what they do," he said.

They live, they do dumb things, they get divorced, they worry about dying - ordinary people are Richard Ford's subject:

"I made Frank have prostate cancer because it was probably just one of those scary things, one of those devils that get drawn on the wall for you, when you're a man over 50."

Richard Ford's high forehead is what you notice first. It looks as if it's meant to house all the complexity he observes about human nature and American life, all the eccentricity, all the humor, until he can run what's collected there through his imagination.

"I'm really lucky to get to write books," he said. "Great literature, whether I could ever write it or not, meant so much to me when I was 19 years old. It changed my whole way of going into the world."

Richard Ford was about the last kid anybody expected to become a writer. He is dyslexic. An only child, he grew up in Jackson, Miss., flirting with delinquency when his traveling salesman father was away.

At a reading, Ford told a story about going to church and stealing cars left unlocked in the parking lot.
"It was a trick that we would steal the cars at exactly eleven o'clock, and we would go out and race those cars, and we would race those cars for exactly 48 minutes, and then we would get them back into the same slots in the church parking lot and go back into the sanctuary and come out with everybody else."
At 16, his father died, and Ford began to get serious.

At Michigan State University, he discovered literature and met his wife, Kristina, his chief booster and critic for more than forty years.

Before Ford submits a manuscript to his publisher, he and Kristina sit across from one another, each with a copy, and he reads it to her.

"And he won't like a word or I won't like a word, and then he'll say, 'I don't like this, you know, "The sky is robin's egg blue," what's another word for blue?' " said Kristina. "And I'll say, 'The sky is azure.' And he says - and we always have one of these little fights - 'Azure???' Is that the best you can do? Why do I have you over here?'"

Kristina Ford prefers candor to flattery.

"If I saw something that was wrong and didn't point it out to him, and a reviewer did, then I've set him up in a way, because he's asked me to help and I didn't help, and then I would feel awful," she said.

Ford's studio is an old boathouse, just down the hill from his home on the Maine coast. Ford and Teichner toured where he wrote "Lay of the Land."

He first writes in longhand, before typing. "My handwriting's terrible," he laughed, "and I have a hard time, sometimes. I have to have a magnifying glass to look at it."

He alluded to the burn spot, "the famous scar."

Here, days before it was finished, a lamp fell on his only copy of the final draft of "The Lay of the Land," setting it on fire.

"I ran out the door and there was dew on the grass, and I just threw the whole thing out on the grass, onto the dewy grass, and I was down on my hands and knees, burning my hands, incidently."

But for Richard Ford, a storybook setting like this doesn't necessarily suggest stories.

"I could set a story any place," he said. "All the stories that I set in Montana, that are in Rock Springs, I could just as easily have set them in Nebraska or Kansas or any place. People don't like it when you say that, because they think somehow you've not been faithful to the place that you're reputed to be writing about."

The Fords have lived lots of places - Montana, because Kristina, an urban planner, got a job there.

Her work also took them to New Orleans, the city Richard Ford realized he loved: "I had never felt about a place the way I felt about New Orleans.:

Days after Hurricane Katrina, with an exile's ache for a place, he wrote about it in a New York Times op-ed piece, "A City Beyond the Reach of Empathy":
"New Orleans, the place where the firm ground ceases and the unsound footing begins. A certain kind of person likes such a place. …

"I write in place of others today, for the ones who can't be found."
"And that was a sort of an instantaneous recognition of what home meant to me in a way that I had never been able to come close to defining it before."

"When he was reading that out loud to me, he could never read it without starting to cry toward the end," Kristina said. "It's so moving, and Richard's not a man who cries often."

He considers New Orleans his home, but moved away well before the hurricane.
He dismisses the importance of place in his writing, but can cry for this place.

Like the characters he creates, at 64 Ford is unapologetically full of contradictions. Take his attitude toward hunting. Hunting is something he and Kristina have always done together, fully aware that they're considered politically incorrect.

"Kristina and I both hunted as kids. The truth is, I think we both just like it."

Hunting figures in his first novel, and the one he's working on now, set in Canada. You can see why Richard Ford likes hunting in the books he's written. It takes a sharp eye and accuracy. Like nailing the right word, it also takes luck.

"To be a novelist, you really got to be lucky," he said. "You can work like the dickens, you can go to your study every day, you can have high aspirations, but you have to get lucky in some way."

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Rick Moranis No Ghosts

Rick Moranis too “stuck up” to perform?Hoping that actor Rick Moranis will join his fellow Ghostbusters alums for the upcoming videogame version? Not gonna happen. He's too rich.

Although Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Dan Aykroyd will reunite for this year's Ghostbusters videogame, their Second City pal Moranis won't reprise his role as dork-turned-Keymaster Louis Tully. "He made so much money off of Honey I Shrunk The Kids that he retired. He just doesn’t want to work anymore," the game's producer told Das Gamer.

So he'll do voice work for the Brother Bear movies, but not this? Sigh.

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Tammy Pescatelli

What better band for Boom Over the Bay?Now this sounds like a blast -- literally. For the second Boom Over the Bay celebration on July 4, you can enjoy live music by the Firecracker Jazz Band at Liberty Park.

The hip, zany sextet formed in 2003 and includes members from Squirrel Nut Zippers, Asylum Street Spankers, and Mad Tea Party, as well as the Tommy Dorsey Band. They play popular and obscure Tin Pan Alley songs from the early 20th-century jazz masters, utilizing stride piano, tuba, banjo, trombone, trumpet, cornet, guitar, drums, and banjo.

Oh, yes: They also sometimes play civil-defense air raid sirens.

Firecracker Jazz Band played at Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee last month, and has also appeared at the Sacramento Jazz Festival and New York City's Highline Ballroom. For the Erie show, they'll play a lively mix of songs synchronized to the fireworks.

Boom Over the Bay will open with the Greater Erie Youth Symphony Orchestra Jazz Ensemble playing at 6 p.m. The inaugural class of the Erie Hall of Fame will be presented at 7:15 p.m. Then the Firecracker Jazz Band starts poppin' at 8:30 p.m. The fireworks should begin around 9:45 p.m.

``Jr.'s Last Laugh welcomes a couple high-profile special events in July. Tammy Pescatelli -- a former "Last Comic Standing" finalist -- will return from July 10-12. She's appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," as well as A&E's "Evening at the Improv." Plus, she's Italian and grew up near Cleveland with a house full of brothers -- all fodder for her comedy.

Then, from July 24-26, Alonzo Bodden visits Jr.'s. He took second place in "Last Comic Standing's" season No. 2, then won it the next year. He followed that up by being a judge on the show. He's also appeared all over TV, including Leno and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."

Call 461-0911 for reservations or, if you have reservations, don't call at all. No one's making you.

``Erie film director Len Kabasinki sends word that his "Fist of the Vampire" will arrive in stores worldwide on DVD on July 8. To celebrate, he's planning a DVD release party on July 12 at Theatre 145, located at 145 W. 11th St. The $5 admission will include a showing of the film and an after-party with hard rock-metal band the Darkling from Buffalo.

"Fist of the Vampire" was a featured film at the Maxim Media International booth at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

``8 Great Tuesdays has booked Boris Garcia to open for Commander Cody on Aug. 26. Boris isn't the bastard child of Jerry Garcia and a Russian war bride but the made-up name for a fast-rising Americana band from Philadelphia.

"Drawing from such Americana styles as folk, country-rock, and bluegrass, Boris Garcia stumbled upon a sound not unlike 'American Beauty'-era Grateful Dead," wrote Mike Greenhaus in Relix magazine last year. They've shared the stage with Hot Tuna, Railroad Earth, Blues Traveler,

``Congrats to Erie's Misery Bay, which won the Mixed Martial Arts Music Meltdown Event on June 21 at the Hard Rock Cafe in Toronto. That makes them the official Band of Freedom Fight 2008. They'll provide the introduction soundtrack for all Freedom Fight events, starting July 26 in Quebec City.

``"Journey into Amazing Caves" will debut Tuesday on the Tom Ridge Environmental Center's Big Green Screen. The story follows Nancy Aulenbach and Dr. Hazel Barton who will share the thrill of exploring caves. You'll follow them into ice caves in Greenland and underwater caves in Mexico among other extreme environments.

"Caves" will replace "The Human Body."

``Adventurous North Carolina trio Freak Tent will play with Otis tonight at Sherlock's. They recently played Skatopia, going on after Green Jello. Skate phenom Ryan Dunn was there to watch. They also recently played Zonefest, and will be at Denver's Mile High Festival in July. They meld funk, punk, and spastic rock in trippy, exciting ways.

Otis also plans on videotaping its show for a possible future release.

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The Coupon Mom

'Coupon Mom' offers tips on saving

Stephanie Nelson, a Marriott International sales and marketing executive, wanted to stay home with two young children but needed to make that financially feasible. She began studying couponing in 1995, and has turned it into an art form that saves her $75 to $100 a week on grocery bills.

That led to start her "The Coupon Mom" Web site which she has built into a business, with a half-million subscribers to the free, advertiser-supported site that offers coupons, tips on deals and other advice.

Here are 10 tips Nelson provided to The Associated Press for novice couponers:

  • Know how your stores' coupon policies work. Ask if they double coupons.

  • Wait to use grocery coupons when the item is on sale. You might get the item free!

  • Buy two to three copies of the Sunday newspaper to load up on grocery coupons.

  • Print free coupons from coupon Web sites. Also download electronic coupons to your loyalty card from store sites such as

  • Be brand-flexible. Buy the brand that's on sale with a coupon, or get the store brand if it's less expensive.

  • Sign up for your store's loyalty card and provide complete mailing information. You'll get special store coupons.

  • Know the usual prices for your regular items and stock up when they're discounted.

  • Shop once a week or less to reduce impulse shopping. Plan your week's meals around your store's sale items.

  • Be flexible about your store choices. Check ads for area stores and shop at the one with the best deals on your items that week.

  • Use drugstore savings programs. Combine sale prices, store coupons and automatic rebates to get free merchandise every week.

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